tv The Presidency Theodore Roosevelt Descendant CSPAN September 30, 2018 11:36pm-12:01am EDT
in just a moment. >> books are available for purchase and victoria and william are happy to sign some books afterwards. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> you are watching american history tv, only on c-span 3. >> descendents of presidents from james munro to gerald r. ford convened in washington, d.c., for a conference hosted by the white house historical association. next, we interviewed tweed roosevelt, the great-grandson of theodore roosevelt. this is about 20 minutes. >> we are talking at the white house historical association presidential site summit.
what is your connection to theodore roosevelt? tweed: he was my great great grandfather. he had a son named archie. archie had a son and his son had me. >> your entire life, have you been connected with your famous ancestor? is it something that you always had a special connection and work to develop the history? tweed: people have this idea that our family spent all our time sitting around tables talking about theodore. actually, we never talked about theodore. we talked about what everybody else talks about. was going to happen here, what will happen next? i did not become aware of it until i was older and then it was mostly negative at first. as a teenager, people seem much more interested in my connection to the famous person than they
were in me. that gets old. >> sure. tweed: it wasn't until later, several things. one, it became clear to me that i was no tr and i shouldn't worry about it. there's only one tr and i am not one of them. i think it was in college that i first really came to the realization that i had a certain level of responsibility because of my relationship. it wasn't until i was in college that i really began to understand that i had many benefits. that came with it a bunch of responsibilities to behave in certain ways, to do things, to live up to people's expectations of what they thought i should be and other people in similar conditions.
i have many family members who want to have very little to do with it and don't pay much attention. the women are particularly lucky in that sense because they marry and usually take another name. but i learned about this -- it was very interesting. i went to harvard. i was in the place called adam's house. the meals were all served in the dining room. there were these irish ladies who had been there forever. we called them green ladies because they wore green outfits. we were terrified of them. they had seen everything. there were various rules, wearing jacket and ties and somebody shows up without a shirt. nothing fazed them. the head green lady was a formidable person, kept us in line. once she called me a sign and said i want to talk to you. i thought what had i done? she took me aside, i was not
dressed terribly, but somewhat shabbily. and she said to me, mr. roosevelt, it is all right for those other kids, those other boys to be like that. you have a certain responsibility, and you have to live up to it. at first i thought about it, and it really impressed on me the responsibility of being a descendent of a famous person. >> how is that incorporated into your life? tweed: i've done a lot of writing. i happen to be the ceo of the theodore roosevelt association. it was chartered by congress right after his death. it memorialized tr. i do a lot of work in that area. it got me to put my socks and behave a little bit. i wasn't behaving all that great
when i was a college student. and the legacy became important. i began to realize how important his ideas were and how important he had been to this country and that his ideas deserved to be remembered and underlined and new generations need to hear about them. the idea of conservation, his ideas about the u.s. military, his ideas about the relationship between business and labor, the rich and poor, his ideas about dealing with foreign policy. many people have an incorrect view of him. he was thought of as this bombastic, almost clownish character. you always hear speak softly and carry a big stick and people think of him as if he was a warmonger. that is not what he did at all.
his foreign policy was based on trying to prevent war. there were several cases, very interesting cases, where he easily could have gone war and he managed to postpone it. to me, many of his ideals represent what we as americans should pay attention to and follow and try to preserve. >> i have recently been reacquainted with douglas brinkley's book. i remember the historian describing that he had psychologists review roosevelt's personality because the exuberance, the energy, the lack of sleep, because he was always doing something, is unusual. what is your interpretation of how your ancestor, tr, was able to manage so much in his lifetime, so much in a day,
reading books while he is doing other things? is there a name for what he was? [laughter] tweed: no, i don't think so. he had an extraordinary mind. he was an unusual character. he was lucky that he did not require more than five hours of sleep. that automatically gave him a lot of extra time. second, he had a tremendous ability to focus, you mentioned reading and writing. there are stories of him sitting in cabin meetings where they are discussing major issues of state and at some point, it was not important for him to be involved because other people were arguing. he would pick up a book and start reading. he was still listening. he didn't miss anything. his reading ability was a spectacular. he did not realize how unusual he was. he had almost a photographic memory. he can remember everything he
read. if you and i could do that, imagine how smart we would be. he would read up to three books a day. he would read them so fast, people thought he was just skimming them. but he could quote vast pieces of it. he had an extraordinary mind. he had extraordinary interest in everything. he was very broad in what he knew. he was causally surprising people that he knew as much or more than they did in whatever the subject was which happened to be their life work. he knew a lot about. he was blessed with an extraordinary mind. he had this tremendous energy. i suppose, i don't know that he crashed. when he crashed, he spent five hours slumbered. all the time, he was doing things. i wish i had that energy.
again, he did not think it was unusual. he did not have self-awareness about how extraordinary his gifts were. >> but he certainly could see himself with others? tweed: he had a lot of self-awareness. others who could not understand this would try to interpret this psychobabble. as if he was manic-depressive or this or that. i am not convinced of most of those arguments. he was a man who had extraordinary tragedies, like all of us can be had depressive moments. he was also a man of extraordinary energy and enthusiasm.
it was not manic. to the extent we are all somewhat manic depressive, but his character was larger. the interesting thing about him is that he accomplished a lot of his programs through executive order. >> we are having that debate today in this country. what do you think the lessons are about strong chief executives and accomplishing things through executive order rather than legislative proposals? i read that william howard taft afterwards came in and help to codify some of roosevelt's policies by putting them through congress in such regular order. talk to me about the executive order and the strong executive. tweed: he is credited with creating the modern presidency in many ways. his belief was quite different than the trail of presidents from lincoln up to him. he viewed the presidency's powers as those only curtailed by the constitution not tell him what he couldn't do. if the constitution did not tell him what he couldn't do, he would do it. there was a big problem with
birds in those days. women's hats had these extraordinary bird feathers. the bird population was being decimated because they wanted them at the best breeding time. in florida, there was a bird breeding area. there are pushing for having it being turned into a bird preserve. they met him wherever this was. he turned to an aide of his and said is there any reason, any rule preventing me from making a bird preserve? no one had ever heard of a bird preserve. they said no, mr. president. he said, ok, there's a bird preserve. he had a very activist view in the presidency. most of that was achieved by executive order, and the
conservation area, he did wonderful things. creating national forests, 230 billion acres, 1/7 of the country. this was done mostly by executive order at the end. it comes down to a question of what the constitution says, and we leave that to the courts, and the attitude of the person doing it, the quality of the person, the ideas. it can be misused. >> after he left office, he took a trip down the amazon and you replicated that. what was the experience like? tweed: it was tough. it had not changed much from when he was there. we went down as part of a huge indian reservation, if you will. nobody had been down there.
we had all the modern advantages. we had high-tech food and reconstituted food. one of the things that became fairly clear quickly was that, even though ours was pretty difficult, it was nothing to like what they had. for example, with avon rafts, which we 200 pounds, you could carry them easily around rapids. of course, you travel around lots of rapids. and they could go on rapids much more easily than his 2500 pound i don't know, a lot, of these big trees, that were dug out. they were huge. they had to drag those around the rapids. that is not the easiest place to drag anything. it would take many days to do
that. we could just walk over. it was tough. it took a long time, it wasn't pleasant. so i got some taste of what it was, before those guys were tough. >> it is suggested that things he picked up really might have helped endanger his health? tweed: yes and no. >> he had a heart problem his whole life, right? tweed: the issue was when he was president, a lot of people don't know this, he was in a serious carriage accident where his leg was severely injured. it was caused by a carriage going along with the governor of massachusetts and the secret
service guy and his secretary and the driver of the carriage. there was a trolley. this was the beginning of the great trolley area. nobody noticed that the roads crossed each other. the trolleys whacked into it. they killed the secret service man and one of the hearses. horses.ne of the it threw tr 30 feet or something. his injury was very serious. he was in a wheelchair for six months. the injury created what they call anaerobic infections inside his bones, which even today is hard to treat. if you cannot get the antibiotics in there. they didn't have antibiotics. so it was just there. if you added any from a to it somehow, it would get activated. in the river, he got crushed trying to rescue one of these canoes.
it reactivated it. there was a doctor on the trip with little in the way of equipment with him. with no anesthetic and no antibiotics, they sliced him open to the bone, that is hard enough, but then they scraped the bone. that was a big trauma. he survived. >> in the jungle? tweed: in the middle of nowhere. for another month he was just delirious. he also had malaria. he did not get malaria from the river. in those days, even today the still problem, in those days you just had it inside of you. it would burst forward every now and then. my grandfather in the second world war fine new guinea. he had the same problem, for no apparent reason he would suddenly get an outbreak and it
was totally debilitating. you don't get malaria unless there are other people around you that have malaria that mosquitoes could bite and give it to you. there were not any people on the river. so he got it from earlier. these combinations wore him down. i studied at one point his medical history, which is unbelievable. this was broken and that was broken. he once said, how does it go? i want to wear out, not rust out. and he certainly did. >> let's spend a minute on your great-grandmother, does your father have memories? tweed: i have memories of her. i am never flattered when people asked me if i remember tr. that is because he died in 1919. but his wife, we called her grandmother, she lived until i was seven or eight.
so i remember her very well. i spent quite a bit of time out at sagamore hill, the roosevelt family home. she was a rather private woman and did not have much time for me. but she was an extraordinary character. i think we are learning more and more about presidential wives and how they affected and helped and so on the their husbands. eleanor is a great example of this. edith, my great-great-grandmother matched tr in many things. tr was not a good judge of character of people. he was often pushing people, perhaps not a good idea. it was her who kind of cap tim
-- kind of tamped him down. she was good at tapping him down. when he got too exuberant at the dining table at the white house, she would say things like, theodore, it's comments like that that get you into trouble. and he, like a six-year-old, would immediately listen to her. she was a very important partner of his. >> where are his papers? tweed: harvard, the horn library, has most of the non presidential stuff. the library of congress has the presidential papers. they are all spread around because we find more and more of them. he wrote 130,000 letters, which sounds outrageous. when you think about how many emails you write, he would write these like emails, he would
often dictate them. they were often short, i cannot come to that dinner or whatever it was, i keep finding more and more them. i get people coming to me i have this tr letter. if you have a letter, get a photocopy of it and send it to harvard. >> a hundred years later, is there more scholarship to be done on theodore roosevelt? tweed: evan mars wrote a brilliant life of tr. wrote ad morris brilliant life of tr. it's wonderful. i'm amazed how much is left out. what is happening now is more and more scholarship being done on smaller pieces. but they are very interesting. i once wrote an article called the 50 essential books on tr. to start off, you have to have 50 books. i think 50 different areas and found the best book. sometimes they were not very
good books but they were the only one on it. the point is that there are these 50 different areas and hundreds of books have been written on him. they keep having new ones and new stuff keeps coming out. there are two kinds of ways that history changes with somebody would like tr, you find new stuff, it is often secondary like he sent letters and they make copies. that is one way that history changes. they say every generation needs a new biography of its great people. the other way is how we perceive the world and the historical issues and the important political policy issues that changes. you can look at tr from a different lens and see whether he lived up to or failed in furthering those things. so something like a relationship with race, relationship with imperialism, many of those views change. it is a very difficult thing
about history, because it is not that they were wrong before, but if people are making it up or anything is just the stage lighting has changed, so you see the same subject, it is the truth, it is the subject, but you see it in a different light. >> that is what makes it also interesting. thank you for telling us about your great-grandfather and great-grandmother. >> this c-span bus was recently in honolulu, hawaii. weekend, october 6, seven, as we feature our visit to hawaii on c-span. and american history tv. exploring the history and culture as well as public policy issues facing the state. next saturday on c-span. journal.gton the director of hawaii's office
of planning will talk about homelessness and lack of affordable housing. and stuart coleman on the life of native hawaiian surf first. then a visit to the university of hawaii. for the extensive book collection of the late u.s. senator. sunday, our hawaii weekend continues on c-span. and the executive director of the blue planet. on american history tv on c-span at 2 p.m. eastern, you visited the valley of the priests. along the north shore of a oahu. and the polynesian voyaging society. and three short documentaries.
and the silent film, the hawaiian islands and the 1952 film. watch hawaii weekend next weekend on c-span. an american history tv. listen to hawaii weekend on the free app, we're featuring the honolulu mayor saturday at 10 a.m. eastern. >> next on the presidency, carl sferrazza anthony talks about how presidents wives will -- and mimi eisenhower's love of pink. the richard nixon foundation hosted this hour-long event. >>